The volleyball team had to hand over the Yale Classic title this year, but attracting two of the nation’s top teams to New Haven was quite an accomplishment in itself.
The Bulldogs (4-2) brought in tough competition for their annual tournament this year, including No. 2 Stanford (11-0), No. 3 Penn State (8-2) and Delaware State (0-14). The Stanford Cardinal continued their undefeated season, winning all three matches and taking first in the tournament. The Bulldogs put up their first two losses of the season but gained a lot of valuable experience and demonstrated their ability to both draw and compete with some of the best.
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“This weekend was really a win-win situation for Yale,” head coach Erin Appleman said. “We showed a lot of mental toughness, and I saw great things from a lot of players.”
The Bulldogs started off the weekend against Penn State on Friday in front of a nearly-packed John J. Lee Amphitheater at the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The team put up a strong fight and refused to give up, scoring the most points in the final match. Middle blocker Laurel Johnson ’10 led the team with eight kills and three digs in the match. Setter Ally Mendenhall ’09 also contributed with 26 assists, five digs and two blocks.
The Nittany Lions proved why they were the third best team in the nation with their consistent precision and power, sealing a 30-14, 30-14, 30-20 victory. Penn State’s three All-Americans, Christa Harmotto, Megan Hodge and Nicole Fawcett, had a combined 42 of the team’s 57 kills, while the Bulldogs only managed 27 kills.
“It was good for us to be really challenged,” outside hitter Kali Nelson ’08 said. “Passing was key for us, and we did a good job setting up hitters.”
The next morning proved to be just as tough for the Elis, who played against No. 2 Stanford. The team battled hard but fell in a 30-19, 30-20, 30-16 loss. The Cardinal had an impressive 57 kills, with 34 assists coming from All-American setter Bryn Kehoe.
Though Stanford held the lead throughout most of the match, the Bulldogs still saw top performances from Crusey, who had 11 kills, and libero Kelly Ozurovich ’11, who had a match-high 12 digs.
“It was an amazing opportunity to play against these top teams,” said outside hitter Lydia Mailander ’10. “We demonstrated that we could play with them and are not a team to be overlooked.”
In their final match of the weekend, the Bulldogs faced Delaware State and ended the weekend’s brief losing streak with a 30-21, 30-21, 30-25 victory. Leading the team was outside hitter Julia Mailander ’10, who put up 14 kills and 10 digs for the team’s only double-double. Mendenhall had another strong performance with 42 assists, 11 digs, six kills and three blocks.
“It was tough to play Penn State and Stanford back to back, but we still came out against Delaware and played Yale volleyball,” Appleman said.
Stanford defeated Penn State in an intense five game match to win the tournament. Stanford’s Cynthia Barboza was named All-Tournament MVP, and Crusey was named to the All-Tournament Team for Yale.
The Bulldogs will head to New York next weekend for their first away matches in the Long Island Tournament. The team will play Binghamton (3-10), Towson (3-10) and Long Island (4-9).
“The competition is going to be tough,” Appleman said. “It should be a good preparation for our upcoming Ivy play.”